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Please Appoint The Right Power Of Attorney When You Have All Your Faculties

I recently had a heartbreaking experience with a family that made me very upset. Two adult sons hired me to help place their father in assisted living memory care. Their father was in a second marriage and living in his home with his second wife. The sons were not Power of Attorney for Health Care or Property. As it was explained to me, the second wife persuaded their father to sign his Powers of Attorney over to her when he had very early signs of dementia but was still well enough to sign. I was also told that the woman was aware of her husband’s ample finances and allegedly had stolen money from him.

When I first met with the family (the 2 sons and new wife), I sensed some very uncomfortable dynamics in the room among the family members. At our first meeting, they explained to me that they had a homecare agency coming into assist their father. He had previously been in a new assisted living memory care community that was part of a brand-chain I didn’t respect. Because of the poor care he received there, his new wife brought him home. The sons hired me to place him in a different community because his constant pacing and refusal to bathe made it difficult for him to stay at home. I investigated options and arranged for his placement at a superior assisted living community that also had skilled nursing care available whenever he might need it.

The clients took my advice and everything went very well. Then, the man’s dementia progressed and he was moved to the skilled care area of the assisted living community. When his wife saw the bills for the skilled care area, she claimed the costs were too high and stopped paying them. However, the sons assured me that their father had plenty of funds to pay and to pay privately (i.e., personal versus Medicaid funds). The community where he was living issued an eviction notice to the wife for non-payment. I told the boys to fight the eviction because moving a person with dementia too many times can lead to serious behavioral issues. The sons took the new wife to court, and their father was allowed to stay.

Unfortunately, another set of bad circumstances occurred. The father began wandering. The skilled care area was not a locked unit, and for the senior’s own safety the family was asked by the administrators in charge to find a locked community and move. At this point, the new wife wanted her husband to go into a nursing home that accepted Veterans Administration (VA) benefits, because then she wouldn’t have to pay for anything. The sons presented me with a list of VA approved homes and I helped them select several suitable places. The wife had ideas of her own, however, and for the sake of personal convenience selected a nursing home very close to where she lived. The place she selected seemed to do a decent job with dealing with persons with dementia who exhibit difficult behaviors. But, I always detected terrible odors in that community and questioned its cleanliness. When I checked the potential home’s State of Illinois survey, the community had about 15 tags – i.e., red flags — including several that said human excrement had been observed in residents’ hair and under their nails. (For perspective, here I note that the average number of tags a nursing home in Illinois receives is 9). With that in mind, I told the sons to try and pursue other places. Due to the internal family disagreement, the sons and new wife ended up in court. The sons asked the judge for permission to let me conduct their dad’s placement. As they were not the Powers of Attorney, however, the judge ruled in favor of the wife and said the father could be sent to the community the wife selected.

In the long run, the community the wife had selected declined to take their father. He had a type of dementia called Lewe Body, and his behaviors were too difficult to handle. The sons again asked the judge for permission to arrange their father’s placement, but to no avail. So, after another fight in court, their father was taken to another community that was convenient for his new wife, but to this day has one of the worst reputations in the region. The last I heard, the father was taken to the hospital and was not expected to live more than another 2 weeks.

What’s the moral of the story? Please reread the title of this article and heed it. And please caution any elderly loved one against marrying someone who seems a bit too interested in his or her accumulated assets or wealth!